Everyone knows that February is the month of Love. But it is typically thought of as the month of romantic love—cupids, roses, chocolates, diamonds, and marriage proposals.
My mother was more interested in the celebration of family love during the month of February than she was in the celebration of romantic love. To encourage this focus on family, she started a tradition called Secret Cupid where we drew the name of a family member and secretly surprised him/her with gifts and acts of service during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.
I will definitely continue this tradition with my own kids, and I’ve also decided to add a tradition of my own: Writing love letters to my children. Yes, mushy, sentimental (maybe even a little sappy) love letters. Whether they are babies who are too young to read their mother’s declarations of affection or teenagers who pretend to be embarrassed by such words, each year on Valentine’s Day, their mother will write them a gushy love letter.
I wrote my first love letter to my son, Noah, when he was seven months old. Noah was a very fussy baby, and for the first year of his life, I had trouble adjusting to being home full-time with him. But one day while we were running errands together, I had a “swell moment,” as I like to call it, when my heart about burst out of my chest from the love I have for him. I went home and started writing. The words of adoration poured out of me as I thought about every little thing that I love about him:
Sweetest Noah Boy,
You smiled up at me today from your car seat, perched in the back of a shopping cart at Target, and I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move.
This happens to me sometimes, when your eyes fill with such contentment, such devotion as you look at me.
I can’t breathe because I know that I am so undeserving of such pure and guileless love. I can’t move because I already feel the moment flying away, and I long to grab it—to clutch it tightly in my fist and press it deeply into my pounding heart.
I look at your innocent little face, beaming up at me with two tiny teeth poking through the gums, and I know that I will do anything—anything—to protect you and your heartbreaking sweetness.
I never knew love like this until I became your mother.
I love your pensive expressions, your chubby hands reaching for my finger, and your frantic splashing in the bathtub. I love your wild blonde hair, your delicious thighs, and your fascination with the blow dryer as it hums in my hands. I love your dinosaur noises during church and your spontaneous chuckle of approval when you are lounging in your car seat.
I love seeing you with your dad and knowing, in that most tender and sacred place in my heart, that despite all my shortcomings, you are both mine–and you both love me so completely.
I love that you have your birthparents’ eyes: Katie’s color, Drew’s shape. Every time someone comments on your beautiful eyes, I am filled with joy and thanksgiving–for the gift that you are in my life, for the gift that they are in my life. I would not be a mother without them. I will never forget their sacrifice.
I love resting my head on your soft hair as you drink your bottle in my arms, feeling your weight and your warmth against my chest, knowing that you are real.
I love that my heart now lives outside of my body, and that I get to watch it growing and grinning and learning. It feels miraculous and vulnerable, exhilarating yet imprudent—to let my heart learn to walk, inching its way along the furniture, falling occasionally and sprawling across the carpet, bewildered.
Soon, you will be running. The baby with the adoring blue eyes will run, and I will let you—my heart growing bigger and stronger with each of your strides.
It was there inside of me all along—instinctive and unconditional—and yet I didn’t know it until I held you for the first time. Staring into those deep blue eyes, those eyes that were just seeing the world for the first time, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. I felt the stirring of something emerging, something swelling and coming alive within my heart—
You are my all and my everything, Noah. Words simply can’t express it.
I love you forever and ever and always.
Though Noah was too young for this letter to mean anything to him, it meant something to me. It comforted me to express such overflowing love for my son, in the midst of days that sometimes felt long and difficult. It put the joy of motherhood back into perspective as I focused on the precious moments that I share every day with my sweet baby.
A love letter can be written any time of year, but I am hoping that making it at least a yearly tradition in February will ensure that I never forget to stop, reflect on the unique qualities of each of my children, and express to them just how loved they truly are.
QUESTION: What are some of the “swell moments” that you’ve had recently with your children, when your heart feels like it is going to burst due to the love that you feel for them?
CHALLENGE: Set aside some quiet, contemplative time to write “love letters” to your children about the moments that you treasure with them. Don’t obsess about your writing being perfect or even totally adequate in expressing such deep emotions–just get some words down on paper, so these moments will never be lost or forgotten.
Pictures courtesy of Rachel Nielson
die Frau says
Oh, Rach, you always express yourself so well. My “swell” moments came yesterday and very early this morning: When I walked in the door last night from work, James’ eyes lit up when he saw me, and he began doing his little shout-crow that he saves for when he’s very excited and happy. He throws in a laugh for good measure. Then he came hurtling toward me and gave me a big hug. He doesn’t do this every time I come home, so it’s special when it happens! The other was this morning around 4:30–he was crying in his crib enough that I went to check (sometimes he cries out and settles within minutes). When I walked in, he had turned on his mobile and was sitting up. The minute he saw me, he reached out his arms for me to hold him. We spent about fifteen minutes in the rocking chair together, James facing me as I rubbed his little back and sang to him. He just needed his mama, and I felt very grateful to have that time, even if it meant less sleep for me!
Wow – just wow. Thank you!
Rachel Sullivan says
You know, I was just thinking a few days ago that this was a tradition I wanted to start in our family, so it was very validating to read about it here! Great minds think alike 🙂 Your letter to Noah was absolutely beautiful. He is one lucky boy to have you for his mom!
Stephanie W says
So beautiful Rachel (as always)! I love the idea of writing a love letter to my kiddos. My husband and I write one for each other each anniversary, but I need to do it for my kids. If I don’t get to it today, maybe I will do it for each of them on their birthdays! Thanks for the idea!
April Perry says
Rachel, this was absolutely beautiful. I love this idea of writing such sweet, specific notes to our children. I printed Valentines for my children yesterday, but we were gone all day, and I didn’t have a chance to write in them. This post gave me some great ideas! Thank you so much!